I don’t really know what to do here: I’ve never seen the stage show, as musicals aren’t really my thing, and there are lots of people who will tell you the movie is inferior to the show. On the other hand, I understand why the show was a big deal, because I watched this movie.
I am not really a fan of musicals. I really only enjoy musical comedies. But I have seen a fair number of them now, at this point. And so I guess I can say that I do have standards. And that’s where my confusion comes in.
Because, as movie musicals go, I’d much rather watch something like this: the premise is different – kind of meta – but also not fantastic in the way so many movie musicals are. And the goal of the musical – to spotlight those who are not the normal stars – feels worthwhile and interesting. (Even if, I’m sure, the actual cast of the Broadway show was stars.) And, as Jenn noted, the movie has the courage of its convictions: it’s an ensemble story with most of the attention on the ensemble.
But everything I’ve read online says this adaption is not good, or even bad or even brutal: people say the story was cleaned up so there was less stuff about gay dancers, songs were eliminated (and added), and Richard Attenborough has been accused of completely misunderstanding the point of the whole thing. (Basically, someone claimed he said in an interview that it’s about up-and-coming dancers. It’s very clearly not about that. Many of them are lying about their ages.) And to add a personal criticism to this: some of the songs, particularly early on, have terrible ’80s drums (and synthesizers sometimes) in them. I have to assume that, since gated drums didn’t exist in 1975, this was an addition for the movie.
But I still can’t help but think there’s something worthwhile here. Maybe that means I just need to see the stage version. But given that I won’t see it any time soon, this will have to do.